Something a little bit different. Completely safe for work.
©2018 Jet Mykles
She didn’t like him, she didn’t trust him and she certainly didn’t think he was gorgeous. Right. And if she kept telling herself that maybe she’d believe it. Eventually.
Trouble was, he really was gorgeous. She wanted to lick every inch of that toned, sleek body he barely hid under crisp button-down shirts and and snazzy suits. She wanted to slide her fingers into that wavy, dirty blonde hair and find out if the curls were as soft as they looked. She wanted to kiss that smiling mouth and find out if he knew what to do with that tongue other than issue arrogant observations.
But none of that was going to happen. Because she didn’t like him, damn it. He was an asshole. He thought he knew everything when, in fact, he only knew what she told him. Here they were in Costman’s conference room and he was putting forth ideas that she’d designed and taking credit for reports she’d spent painstaking hours crafting while she sat at his side smiling, nodding and looking pretty. Maybe. Who knows if any of the five men in the room thought she was pretty. Who cared? She didn’t. Not one bit.
Finally the awful meeting was over. Okay, it wasn’t so awful. They probably got the contract, and that would carry their small company through much of the third and fourth quarters of this year and beyond. It was a win. She should be happy. She would have been happy if it wasn’t for him!
She maintained her pleasant smile as they bade goodbye to their likely new clients. She stood there as he chatted and accepted an invitation from Mr. Halverston to play golf that weekend at an expensive and exclusive country club. She knew it. She’d never been there but everyone in the area knew it. And he was going. She did not merit and invitation, of course. She felt like she was standing in an episode of Mad Men for Christ’s sake. Once they were in the elevator, she gave up the pretense. Her smile dropped, her brows lowered, but she kept her eyes on the changing numbers which kept her profile to him, allowing her to hide her ire for the moment.
He was quiet until the second floor. Then: “Just how pissed are you?”
Startled, she glanced over — and up — to find him watching her, his light brown eyes wary. Long practice allowed her to mask her anger before their gazes met. “What?”
He flinched, which startled her. His gaze dropped as the elevator doors open. “Look, Ray, I know I handled that meeting badly.” He held the doors opened for her, but still didn’t look her in the eye as she stared at him. “I didn’t let you talk and I took full credit for your work. I’m sorry. But these guys –” he shook his head, “– it’s a boys’ club and, well… I had to.” At the last, he finally met her gaze, seemingly genuine remorse etched in his oh-so-pretty features.
She blinked, sniffed, then stalked out of the elevator. Since he was behind her, he couldn’t see the confusion that might be on her face. He was apologizing? He’d never done that before. The click of his heels followed hers across the polished floor of the office building’s lobby. She punched the button for the parking garage’s lobby then stared at the doors as he came up beside her.
She shook her head. “Okay.”
The bell dinged and she walked into the small space, turning in time to see him join her. He was still watching her warily. She sighed. “Okay.”
“What does that mean?” He hit the button for P2.
“Okay, I get it. You’re probably right. They didn’t listen to the few words they allowed me to say anyway.” Which was true. Damn it.
“They’re assholes,” he clarified.
Allowing herself a small, half smile, she nodded. “Agreed.”
“Am I forgiven?”
She looked at him then glanced away. “Yeah. Sure.”
He sighed. “You’re still mad.”
“You sound mad.”
“I’m not mad at you. Anymore.” Mostly. Actually, she was confused. He seemed genuinely concerned, which was completely new in the three years she’d worked with him.
“I guess that’s something.”
She left the elevator when the doors opened. “Why do you care?” She heard herself ask it before her brain consciously gave the command to do so.
“What?” Keys jangled as he got them out of his pocket.
“No.” They stopped at the car and she was unable to get in as he didn’t click the fob to open the locks. He stood there, looming over her, a frown lowering his brows. “What do you mean why do I care?”
Well, fuck it, the words were already out. She had to go with it. “Just that. Why? You’ve never cared before.”
She blinked rapidly. “Yes. Before.”
“Have I done that before?”
She had to laugh. “Yes, Chris. Yes you have.”
He shook his head. “I’ve never…”
She held up a hand. “Don’t. Just. Don’t.” She gestured at the car. “Could you please unlock so we can go back to the office?”
“No.” He flipped the keys so they were secured in his palm. “When have I done this before?”
“When? In every conference call we have with New York.”
“What? No, I…”
“In every meeting we have with Rick.”
“No, that’s diff…”
“And that doesn’t count the endless emails where my work suddenly becomes your work.”
A curl fell across his forehead when his head jerked back. “Our work.”
“Funny. That pronoun isn’t one you’ve used often.” She didn’t bother to keep the disdain from her voice.
His jaw dropped as he stared at her. She wished she’d started counting because it was probably a full minute before he spoke again. She made herself stay silent, dying to hear how he denied her words.
“Do I do that?”
“Jesus. Why do you put up with it?”
Now her jaw dropped. “What?”
“Why the hell haven’t you torn me a new one before this?”
Blinking. “Excuse me?”
“You heard me. Why didn’t you point it out?” He raked a hand through his hair, messing it up in a most attractive way. “Why the hell did it take Alison to point it out to me?”
She’d been about to correct him, that she had tried to correct him in the first few months they’d worked together. She’d stopped when it didn’t seem to make a difference and what he was doing was getting them more work. But his last sentence threw her off. “What?”
Grumbling, he pulled out the keys as he rounded to the passenger door of his SUV. The car beeped, letting her know that it was unlocked. Dumbfounded, she opened the back to deposit her briefcase and presentation boards, then got in her seat just as he turned the key in the ignition.
“I didn’t realize,” he growled, staring at the steering wheel as he gripped it tightly.
“Realize what?” Her anger was gone, replaced by amazement. Alison was his personal assistant and a work friend of Ray’s. What had she told him?
“I didn’t realize I was overshadowing you.”
“Alison’s word.” He swallowed, still staring straight ahead. “I didn’t… It’s just these people that we deal with, they know my name and I thought it was better to put out our ideas in a united front. I guess… No, I didn’t think how you’d take that. You’re so good and I’ve been so excited to put out what you’ve come up with, I guess I didn’t think about what I was saying or the picture I presented.”
Holy crap. Who was this and what had he done with her colleague?
“Fuck.” He pounded the steering wheel, startling her with a profanity she’d ever heard leave it his lips. Finally turning, he looked utterly sincere when he said. “Ray, I’m so sorry.”
She swallowed. “Okay.”
He grimaced. “Again with the okay?”
“I’m not sure what else to say.” Which was the God’s honest truth. She’d never seen this conversation coming. Ever.
“We’ll work on it, okay? We’ll go over all of our accounts and you tell me where I’ve done it and we’ll fix it. Okay?”
Stunned, she sat forward in her seat. “Okay.”
He didn’t drive forward. He was still looking at her. “Ray?”
“What are you thinking?”
Shocked, she turned back to him. “What?”
“What are you thinking?”
“I’m not really sure.”
She shook her head. “Who are you? You’ve never acted like this before.”
“Yeah, I know. I’m sorry.”
“Because I like you.”
She stared. That sentence could be taken a few different ways and she didn’t want to misunderstand. “Like?”
He blew out a breath. “The reason Alison set me straight is because I asked her if she thought you’d go out with me. Y’know, if I asked.”
“Yes. On a date.”
“That’s the idea.”
She laughed. She couldn’t help it. This was surreal.
The look on his handsome face was somewhere between a laugh and a frown. “Is that the start of your blowing me off?”
“Are you going to say no?”
She laughed again.
“If you’re trying to make me feel insecure, you’re doing a good job.”
She sobered as much as she could but the giggles lingered in her throat. “You don’t have an insecure bone in your body.”
“I disagree. You make me second guess myself every damn day.”
She stared. “You’re serious.”
“Deadly.” He laughed a little. “I’ve made a mess of impressing you.”
“Yeah.” Okay, that was mean. But, damn it, he deserved it.
“Is it too late to make amends? Get into your good graces?”
She’d never seen this hesitant side of him. It was adorable. She melted a little. “No.”
She smiled. “It’d have to be a pretty expensive dinner.”
It took him a moment, then a smile bloomed that made her heart ache. “Expensive, huh? Should flowers and chocolate be involved?”
She sat back in her seat, facing forward, unable to smother the smile that took over her lips as she fastened her seatbelt. “Not flowers, but chocolate might help.”
He put on his own seatbelt. “When can this expensive dinner happen? Tonight?”
“Let me think about it.”
“Okay.” He pulled out of the parking space. “The drive back to the office is a half hour.”
Joyfully, she laughed.